Reports: Al-Shabab Strikes Back in Mogadishu District

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 2:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Witnesses in Somalia say al-Shabab militants have recaptured most of an important Mogadishu district, after launching a fierce counterattack that killed dozens of African Union troops.

Journalists and witnesses told VOA the al-Qaida-linked group retook the Daynile district Thursday afternoon, and they said sporadic gunfire continued into the evening.

Witnesses also told VOA they had seen the bodies of at least 30 AU soldiers. Al-Shabab officials claimed its fighters had killed at least 60 AU troops.

Earlier, Somali officials announced that pro-government forces and African Union troops had seized control of Daynile, al-Shabab's lone remaining stronghold in Mogadishu.

A government statement calls Daynile a “strategic corridor” that connects Mogadishu to Somalia's Middle and Lower Shabelle regions.

A year ago, al-Shabab controlled all but a few blocks of the capital but has been pushed back steadily by government troops and pro-government AU peacekeepers. The militants had pulled out from most parts of the city in August.

Meanwhile, Kenyan forces continue a campaign against al-Shabab in southern Somalia.

Kenyan army spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir says Kenyan troops have taken control of Ras Kamboni, a town on the Somali coast, and are closing in on Kismayo, an important base for al-Shabab.

Kenya blames al-Shabab for the kidnapping of several foreigners in Kenyan territory — an allegation al-Shabab denies.

On Thursday, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said his country would use “all measures necessary” to ensure Kenyan peace and stability, saying the military operation was meant to protect Kenyan sovereignty.

Al-Shabab has fought since 2007 to topple the U.N.-backed Somali government and set up an Islamic state in Somalia. The group is known for public amputations and executions for alleged violations of sharia, or Islamic law.